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Belgrade Media Report 29 June

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vulin: In agreement with Vucic, I refrained from going to KiM (Tanjug)
• Bishop Amfilohije says Kosovo status can’t be decided at referendum (RTS, Beta)
• Mihajlovic: The one who separates the Serbs on Vidovdan does not think well to Serbia (Tanjug)
• Dacic: Another country set to revoke Kosovo recognition (RTS)
• Ristic to Putin: Vucic to end up like Djindjic if he tries to achieve peace (VIP)
• SNS Officials: Vucic “Threatened with Murder” (VIP, PINK, Danas)
• Jeremic party says agreement to let Kosovo into UN is act of treason (VIP)
• Serbian Justice Minister: All recommendations of Venice Commission to be accepted (RTV)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Thesis about Croats being endangered went down the drain when Constitutional Court ruled that Serbs are not equal in parts of country in which Croats are majority (Nezavisne)
• Conference on regional cooperation in Western Balkans takes place in Banja Luka (N1)

Croatia
• Croatia ready for border talks with Slovenia (Hina)

Montenegro
• Reasons of Becic and Abazovic’s visit to Brussels aren’t very clear (Pobjeda)

fYROM
• Stoltenberg: Without the finalization of the agreement, your country can not join NATO (MIA)
• European Council backs opening accession talks with Macedonia (MIA)
• Zaev: Clear accession talks date, screening begins around July 20 (Telma TV)
• Zaev-Hahn: Intensive work ahead of Macedonia for successful EU accession talks (MIA)
• EU path set out, keep up reform pace, Tusk urges Zaev (MIA)

Albania
• Rama to Opposition: We haven’t failed (ADN)
• Ambassadors Council: 2019 Does not mean opening negotiations (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Attempts are made to provoke Serbia into conflict (Sputnik)
• Is two too little or just right for Serbia? (EURACTIV)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vulin: In agreement with Vucic, I refrained from going to KiM (Tanjug)

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin believes that Albanians are scared of his words, and that they have therefore forbidden him from entering KiM on Vidovdan, but also says that, according to the Serbian President’s advice, he will not react to this ban.

Alessandar Vulin, in his statement to Tanjug, says he is surprised that his words “are frightened also to Europeans, who often teach us lessons about freedom of speech”.

“They found another point that ties and connects them, this time it is the introduction of a verbal delict. I spoke with the President and supreme commander, Aleksandar Vucic, and I agreed to refrain from any action that could be used as an excuse for violence against Serbs who celebrate Vidovdan” Vulin said, stating that because of this, he did not go to KiM. He added, however, that he would not stop thinking and speaking, no matter how much they tried to forbid him.

 

Bishop Amfilohije says Kosovo status can’t be decided at referendum (RTS, Beta)

The Vidovdan was marked in the Gracanica Monastery, and Metropolitan Amflohija also sent to the public political messages during the Holy Liturgy. Amfilohije said that the future status of Kosovo can be put to a referendum “only by someone who has no reason, knowledge or wisdom. There was tyranny in this area for centuries but no one separated Kosovo from the people whether they stayed or fled, did not put Kosovo and Metohija to a referendum, did not put his very being to a referendum, his very fate,” Amfilohije is quoted as saying.

 

Mihajlovic: The one who separates the Serbs on Vidovdan does not think well to Serbia (Tanjug)

Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said that one who is on Vidovdan ready to look for traitors among the Serbs in Kosovo, to separate them and create conflicts among them, does not mean well either to Serbs, Serbia, and least to Kosovo.

She stressed that Kosovo needs a joint solution of Serbs and Albanians, a solution that will bring peace and tranquility and security to Serbs in Kosovo, Serbian Church, priests, monks and nuns, who guard our sacred places, and to Serbia the future and the possibility of further development, stated the Vice-President’s Cabinet. “We want a solution that will not put us to shame before our ancestors or before our children. We are ready for a compromise, because the frozen solution for Kosovo would only freeze Serbia, and consolidate all those who thrive on misery of the people, Serbs and Albanians” said Mihajlovic.

 

Dacic: Another country set to revoke Kosovo recognition (RTS)

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told RTS that it is of national interest that the issue of KiM be resolved and that because of that, threats to President Aleksandar Vucic are damaging for Serbia. He points out that Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov told him that Vladimir Putin will visit Serbia in the autumn. Dacic said that the threats addressed to President Vucic are not surprising, given that the satanisation of all who take part in the Brussels dialogue lasts for years.

 

Amfilohije has “buried” the government after the signing of the Brussels Agreement. There is a high degree of not only hatred but also an irrational madness that exists around us on this issue. The issue of Kosovo is not an issue that should remain in encyclopedias and textbooks, but rather it is the problem of Serbs who live there, but also of entire Serbia, it is of national interest that this issue be resolved. Such threats in this sense do not benefit but harm Serbia” Dacic explains.

 

He added that he came from Moscow yesterday where he had good talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and his closest associate Shoygu.

“When it comes to Putin, Lavrov told me that the Russian President is coming to Serbia in autumn, which is an important news and important thing, because Russia is an important ally of Serbia regarding Kosovo” Dacic said. He points out that Lavrov asked him how it was in Brussels and whether there was progress in the talks. “He repeated once again that Russia is ready, if the format is expanded, to participate in the talks and will continue to support Serbia” Dacic adds. Dacic notes that the format is unlikely to change, but that talks may be more intensive. “The next year, the mandate of European officials expires, and they want to resolve these issues by then if they can, but nothing has changed regarding their positions” said Dacic.

“I am participating with Vucic in the Brussels dialogue for six years now, and I know what we are talking about, everything is in the best interest of Serbia. We want to make the best possible result for Serbia and it is possible, if the West exerts pressure on the Pristina side” Dacic explains.

 

Dacic added that Pacoli asked him, in front of everyone in Brussels, to stop lobbying some countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo. “Pacolli told me, ‘don’t be ruining my business” Dacic said. “And I must say that today I will have another news. In the past few months, four countries have withdrawn the recognition, a couple of years ago one more, and today there will be sixth” said Dacic.

“This will be the sixth country that has recently withdrawn the recognition of Kosovo. We are now close to the situation where the number of states that have recognized Kosovo will fall below 100, which was my goal,” the minister said.

 

Commenting on the idea of ​​partitioning Kosovo, Dacic pointed out that it was “not too late for that” – while those who say it is, “think that it cannot be achieved.”

“Those who tell you it’s too late for a partition, or that they’re against it, either do not understand the mode we are in now, or want us to bring it back through war, or adopt a policy to wait a couple of hundred years to get it back,” said Dacic.

 

Ristic to Putin: Vucic to end up like Djindjic if he tries to achieve peace (VIP)

In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbian MP Slavisa Ristic said that Vucic “is clearly warned by the tragic fate of the murdered Prime Minister Djindjic about what happens to those who do not fulfill their promises to the West”. Vucic is preparing to sign a comprehensive agreement with Kosovo because that is what he promised Western countries, Ristic claimed.

“The main reason for this excessive cooperation by the Serbian President lies in the fact that this is what he promised the West when he came to power,” the letter said. Ristic added that pro-Vucic media stress the alleged love of Russia of the Serbian president “who is bragging that he met with Putin 13 times and has friendly relations with Russia in the desire to show that he has Russian support for his policy on Kosovo”.

“We know that is not true because we have heard from you several times that the status of Kosovo has to be resolved in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244. Excessive cooperation, not to use another word, is not in the spirit of the resolution and runs counter to the existing Serbian constitution. It seems strange that the Belgrade authorities are asking Russia to prevent Kosovo’s entry [into international institutions] while they are allowing Kosovo to become a member of numerous international institutions and organizations,” Ristic wrote.

“What we want to ask you is to not agree to allow the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo to join the UN if Belgrade signs a comprehensive peace agreement with the separatists and asks that of you. As long as resolution 1244 exists and states that Kosovo is Serbia, then it really is Serbia,” Ristic’s letter said.

 

SNS Officials: Vucic “Threatened with Murder” (VIP, PINK, Danas)

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) on Thursday – the day that Serbia marks St. Vitus Day and the historic defeat in 1389 by the Ottoman army in the battle of Kosovo -stepped up its campaign to create the impression that its leader, President Aleksandar Vucic was under pressure and at risk for his life because of his engagement in resolving the Kosovo issue.

SNS parliament group chief Aleksandar Martinovic and other ruling party officials used the opportunity presented by an open letter from an opposition MP to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a statement by the radical Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop Amfilohije at the St Vitus day celebration in Kosovo to implicitly accuse the entire opposition and everyone else critical of Vucic that they want the Serbian President to end up like the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic who was assassinated in March 2003. Martinovic accused MP Slavisa Ristic of the New Serbia – Movement for the Salvation of Serbia of “threatening murder” against Vucic in his letter to Putin since Ristic drew a parallel between Vucic and Djindjic. Martinovic said this was “a well-planned action to threaten Vucic on St Vitus day” with Bishop Amfilohije joining in. Martinovic said that the bishop “characterized as traitors” Vucic and the SNS in his speech in the Kosovo town of Gracanica. “That statement is irresponsible and is a threat to the state, the people and the SPC,” Martinovic said.

Later in the day, Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic and Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic stepped in to defend Vucic. Stefanovic said that the orchestrated attack had been launched against Vucic to “try to create a climate in which something bad could happen to Vucic in a perfidious way. The climate is being created for various foreign services to be able to do harm to Vucic and say that some extremists did it. A strong Serbia and strong President of Serbia suits no one” Stefanovic told TV Pink.

In the statement for Danas daily, Ristic said he did not threat anyone, including Vucic, and he said he was suspicious that SNS officials were “drawing a target on my head”. “It is clear that the authorities have the obligation to sign a legally-binding agreement with Kosovo and they will raise the tantrum in order to put it in the background, so they will keep making up coup d’états, assassinations and other things”, he said.

 

Jeremic party says agreement to let Kosovo into UN is act of treason (VIP)

The world treason, even conditional, was definitively mentioned on Thursday by the opposition People’s Party whose statement raised the question of whether the Serbs as a nation “are prepared to remain silent observers of the fact that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is permanently freeing it of the Kosovo problem”. Vucic, who is tackling the Kosovo issue in a “cursory, incompetent and irresponsible manner” intends to “finish the whole thing with his mentors with who he brought the Serbian people to sanctions, bombings and suffering two decades ago,” said the statement by the party headed by former Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic.

“They took us to war and today they are threatening us with war again if we don’t allow them to bring their treason to the end. They are telling us that the alternative to war is a historic yes. No one is threatening Serbia with war. Those are just attempts by Vucic to transfer his personal deal and mistake to the nation like his teachers did 20 years ago. We cannot allow him to do that,” it added. Vucic’s final intention is “to present the signature that gives Kosovo a seat in the UN as the only alternative to war and a historic victory” and that “would be a national betrayal”, the statement said.

 

Serbian Justice Minister: All recommendations of Venice Commission to be accepted (RTV)

Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic said on June 28 that all recommendations of the Venice Commission for the draft amendments to the Constitution in the judicial field would be accepted, but that there would be no public debate on them, nor would they be drafted from the beginning.

“I see no reason, nor has anyone said that they should be drafted from the beginning,” Kuburovic

stated. She said that all comments of the Venice Commission were acceptable, adding that the opinion of the commission showed that “the ministry was on the right track.”

“There should be no fear that we will not act in accordance with the recommendations,” Kuburovic said in an interview with RTV, adding that the Venice Commission had accepted the “fundamental novelties” envisaged in the draft amendments, like the Judicial Academy and the initial training. She said the draft amendments completely excluded political influence in the High Judicial Council, because the proposal is that five members of the body are representatives of the judicial profession, and five are appointed by the Serbian parliament from the ranks of “prominent jurists.” “We have established the independence of judges in the full sense,” Kuburovic said. Asked whether judges and prosecutors were independent, Kuburovic replied: “I truly believe they are.”

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Thesis about Croats being endangered went down the drain when Constitutional Court ruled that Serbs are not equal in parts of country in which Croats are majority (Nezavisne)

Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) of the Parliament of the Federation of B&H and Vice-President of SDA, Edin Music, said that the work of the Federation of B&H HoR has not been blocked. “There is only a problem with the parliamentary majority”, said Music.

Reminded that the Federation of B&H HoR has recently adopted the Law on Constituencies and Mandates in the Federation of B&H, which resulted in HDZ-HNS Caucus boycotting the work of the Federation of B&H HoR, and asked to say if he expects this Law to end up before the Constitutional Court of B&H, Music replied by saying that the Law is yet to be adopted in the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP), and if the Federation of B&H HoP adopts it and someone initiates the vital national interest protection procedure, only then will the Constitutional Court of B&H become in charge of this issue.

 

Author noted that HDZ B&H representatives are constantly talking about outvoting, protection of vital national interests and constitutive status of Croats, and asked Music to say if Croats’ rights are indeed violated in the Federation of B&H and B&H. Music rejected such claims, saying that analysis of all constitutional solutions shows that representatives of Croat people occupy more seats in authority than they should. “But that is the constitutional solution, and we accept it”, said Music. He explained that there is approximately 22 or 23 percent of Croats in the Federation of B&H, yet they occupy between 40 and 45 percent of seats in authority.

Furthermore, according to Music, analysis prepared by experts from renowned institutions, such as the World Bank, showed that economic status of citizens of Croat ethnicity in B&H is much better than economic status of Bosniaks and Serbs. “Thesis about citizens of Croat ethnicity not being equal has gone down the drain after one of the rulings of the Constitutional Court, which has said that citizens of Serb ethnicity are not constituent and equal in areas in which Croats are majority”, concluded Music.

 

Conference on regional cooperation in Western Balkans takes place in Banja Luka (N1)

Member of the European Parliament and European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Cristian Dan Preda attended the conference entitled ‘Challenges of Regional Cooperation in the Western Balkans’ which was held in Banja Luka on Thursday. The aim of the conference, which was organized by B&H authorities, the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H and the Council of Europe (CoE), was to encourage young leaders, politicians to get involved in the decision-making process and help speed up the integration process.

Participants of the conference stressed that the B&H authorities have to answer 655 follow-up questions which the European Commission (EC) sent. Republika Srpska (RS) Minister of Economic Relations and Regional Cooperation Zlatan Klokic said that the RS authorities are working fast on answering the follow-up questions. Klokic stressed that he does not want to predict when B&H could become a member of the EU, recalling that it took 16 months to B&H to answer the questions from EC’s Questionnaire although the deadline was six months.

Head of the EUD to B&H Lars-Gunnar Wigemark recalled that the EC published the regular annual report on B&H in April, which notes progress or regression in various areas. “One of those areas is freedom of media where progress still has not been made. Although you have many media present in the country, there is still significant level of limitation in their work, censorship, self-censorship and similar things,” Wigemark underlined.

B&H Presidency member Mladen Ivanic said that the European perspective is one of the things that could certainly help stabilize the situation in B&H, but stronger internal connection and commitment to the EU are necessary for that. According to Ivanic, B&H had excellent progress on this path in the first two years, but this was affected by political environment that was created in the meantime.

 

Croatia

 

Croatia ready for border talks with Slovenia (Hina)

Croatia is ready to discuss with Slovenia ways of resolving the border issue after Slovenia’s new government is formed, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday after meeting Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) leader Janez Jansa and discussing the matter with him in Brussels earlier in the day. Plenkovic and Jansa were attending a meeting of leaders of the European People’s Party who meet before each EU summit.

“We are willing to negotiate with our Slovenian friends in order to solve this long-lasting outstanding issue in a diplomatic way and bilaterally. I have told so SDS leader Janez Jansa today and I hope a new government will be formed soon in Slovenia because we are ready to negotiate again,” Plenkovic told reporters.

Plenkovic also commented on relations with the USA when asked by a reporter about Ambassador Robert Kohorst‘s statement that Washington had taken Croatia for granted so far and about a possible visit by U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.

“We always try to have good relations, I haven’t read that statement specifically, but what is good is that we are partners in NATO. There is a possibility that the Secretary of Defence will visit Croatia after the NATO summit in Brussels. We must finally get a decision on the cancellation of visa requirements and we have been working on that continually,” said Plenkovic.

 

Montenegro

 

Reasons of Becic and Abazovic’s visit to Brussels aren’t very clear (Pobjeda)

Aleksa Becic and Dritan Abazovic, leaders of Democratic Front and URA, paid a visit to Brussels but it didn’t produce expected results. The announced stop of boycott didn’t happen and the ultimatum they delivered- establishing the date of parliamentary and local elections in the same day before the return to the Parliament- actually alienated the Government and the opposition from reaching an agreement. It’s not very clear now whether the European Commission Johannes Hahn and the team form the EC haven’t heard well what Becic and Abazovic had said or maybe these two are trying to cover themselves with the support from Europe and try to provide better negotiation position in Montenegro? Or maybe even Hahn and domestic opposition leaders are a little bit lost in translation? After it had been announced that the majority of the opposition parties was coming back to the Parliament, Becic and Abazovic presented their plan for “overcoming complex political and institutional crisis in Montenegro”. The truth is they haven’t explained further what kind of crisis they were talking about, since, meanwhile, the local and presidential elections had been held regularly.

And although, Johannes Hahn proclaimed Becic and Abazovic as “leaders of Montenegrin opposition”, it’s not very logical that they can be absolute leaders of the opposition with 10 out of 39 members of Parliament. Becic and Abazovic went to Brussels followed by media pomp. They were welcomed by Johannes Hahn the very first day of their visit. But instead of an agreement regarding the comeback to the Parliament, the citizens were plunged into great confusion caused by contradictory interpretations and conclusions from the meeting.

 

fYROM

 

Stoltenberg: Without the finalization of the agreement, your country can not join NATO (MIA)

At our Summit in two weeks, I expect that Allied Heads of State and Government will invite you to start accession talks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday in Brussels at the joint press conference with the Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev.

Stoltenberg welcomes the agreement reached between Macedonia and Greece, which sets an example for others across the region on how to consolidate peace and stability.

“The name dispute has cast a shadow over the region for too long. It has held back prosperity and security. But now there is the chance for a brighter future. NATO’s door is open, and you are now on the doorstep. You have already shown your commitment to international peace and security, working with NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

“Once all national procedures have been completed to finalize the agreement, you will join NATO. Without the finalization of the agreement, your country can not join NATO in the foreseeable future. So, this is an historic opportunity which cannot be missed,” Stoltenberg underlined.

Asked about his expectations for the upcoming NATO Summit, he believes that the country will be invited to start accession talks.

“Once we complete accession talks and name agreement will be closed, the country will become full-fledged member,” Stoltenberg said.

PM Zaev expects Macedonia to become 30th NATO member states and its flag to be raised in front of the NATO headquarters. He underlines that Macedonia has been waiting for the invitation since 2008 when it was concluded that it fulfills all NATO membership requirements and standards.

 

Over the past year, the Government has worked in parallel on domestic reforms and foreign policy issues, said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Friday.

“We are aware of the criticism that our focus has been more on foreign diplomacy, especially the settlement of the problems with Bulgaria and Greece, but we worked on the reforms in parallel. We have completed the first stage, we passed the judiciary reforms together with the opposition, now comes the second and the third stages. We finally have time to fully focus on reforms and the economy,” PM Zaev told reporters at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. He said the NATO invitation and the opening of the path for EU accession negotiations would contribute to this aspect. “I believe the Government and all institutions in Macedonia, but also our citizens, will be motivated for this. I am convinced that we finally have in our reach something that past generations have fought for since Macedonia’s independence,” added Zaev.

 

Macedonia’s NATO accession talks will begin by the delivery of the membership invitation on July 12. The signing of the accession protocol is expected in January 2019, following the implementation of Macedonia’s obligations stemming from the name agreement, Government sources told MIA. From that day forward, Macedonia will take part in all NATO structures, getting a chair on the table of the North Atlantic Council, sitting next to Norway.

The ratification of the accession protocol in all NATO member-states requires approximately 1-1,5 year.

 

European Council backs opening accession talks with Macedonia (MIA)

The European Council backs the decision for opening accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania. “The European Council strongly welcomes and supports the agreement reached between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece on the name issue. This, together with the agreement between Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness, and Cooperation, sets a strong example for others in the region to strengthen good neighbor relations,” reads the conclusion from European Council meeting held on Thursday. On June 26, the EU Council reached unity on the progress of Macedonia and Albania on the European integration agenda. The Council concludes that Skopje and Tirana will be able to open accession talks in June 2019 if they meet certain conditions.

 

Zaev: Clear accession talks date, screening begins around July 20 (Telma TV)

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Thursday that Macedonia has received a clear date for the start of EU accession talks, while the screening process of chapters would begin with a visit by Commissioner Johannes Hahn around July 20.

“We have received a clear date for the beginning of the talks and there is no dilemma in this. The screening process begins with the visit of Commissioner Hahn in the second half of July. I believe Macedonia will timely go through all steps” PM Zaev told Telma TV station.

He said Macedonia is prepared for the talks and reforms in the judiciary, media, public administration, security are fully coordinated with the European Commission and the European Delegation to Skopje.

“We will continue to do this,” said Zaev and added that Macedonia needs swift reforms so that citizens can feel the changes. According to him, the decision over the accession talks date is a strong motivation that represents an obligation for everyone to complete the reforms.

The PM said Macedonia has no other option to EU and NATO. “I believe in the citizens of Macedonia and their optimism that these objectives are attainable,” said Zaev.

 

Zaev-Hahn: Intensive work ahead of Macedonia for successful EU accession talks (MIA)

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had a meeting Thursday in Brussels with EU Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn, which in practice kicked off the preparations for the screening process for Macedonia, which is given a conditional green light to open EU accession talks in June 2019. The meeting was also attended by Macedonian Vice-Premier for European Affairs Buljar Osmani, the Defense and Foreign Ministers, Radmila Sekerinska and Nikola Dimitrov respectively, the government said in a press release.

The meeting addressed the envisaged activities for implementing the Skopje-Athens name deal, as well the guidelines for Macedonia to strengthening the reform efforts related to EU aquis chapters that would be opened in June next year – the rule of law, judiciary and fundamental rights.

The meeting concluded that the process of preparations for Macedonia’s EU accession talks should be fully inclusive for the country to create the best teams that would work on harmonizing the national with the EU aquis.

The meeting’s main message is that there is no time for celebrations, as the government in the next 365 days should work hard to realize the historic task for Macedonia’s speedy and successful EU accession talks.

 

EU path set out, keep up reform pace, Tusk urges Zaev (MIA)

This is a good week for your country and for the Western Balkans. The EU ministers set out the path towards opening accession talks with Macedonia and with Albania in June 2019, and in just a few hours, I expect that the EU Heads of States will endorse this decision, European Council President Donald Tusk told a news conference in Brussels alongside Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Tusk said that this ‘great’ achievement would not be possible without the strong engagement of the Macedonian government all the while mentioning the friendship treaty with Bulgaria and the name deal with Greece calling them ‘an example for others in the region on how to mend relations with neighbors.’

“During my visit to Skopje in April, I could see the political will to move on with the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. I have no doubt that under the courageous and forward-looking leadership of Prime Minister Zaev, you will be able to keep up the pace of reforms in key areas that are important for the future of your country,” stated Tusk. He also thanked the Macedonian authorities for their excellent cooperation in 2015 in stemming the migration flow.

 

Speaking at the news conference on Thursday, PM Zaev said that in Brussels, at the heart of Europe, the great news of Macedonia being given a date for EU negotiations in June 2019 was confirmed. “Our country deserves this. The EU leaders said that indeed, the country deserved it. The EU has acknowledged that Macedonia in just under a year has managed to make a breakthrough from being a captured state. In just one year, Macedonia has become a country of positive changes, of inclusion, political dialogue, of political will to solve issues with the neighbors” Zaev stated.

 

Albania

 

Rama to Opposition: We haven’t failed (ADN)

The Prime Minister Edi Rama, arrived at the Parliamentary session on Thursday, where he said to the opposition that the government had not failed regarding negotiations.

“Our opposition is the only one who says we have failed, when European Commission continues congratulating us for the progress achieved. But we have a lot of work to do, therefore it is not worthy to deal with you anymore. We will move only forward. I can’t wait for the next June to see what you are going to do then. It is a misfortune that there is no opposition for employment, rural development, education and tourism,” said PM Rama.

 

Ambassadors Council: 2019 Does not mean opening negotiations (ADN)

The Council of Albanian Ambassadors, a forum of well-known diplomats and intellectuals, reacted today on the decision of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, seeking seriousness from all political classes, and especially the Government. The Council of Ambassadors stresses that the public needs to be properly informed, since June 2019, as a station scheduled by EC, does not mean automatic opening of negotiations.

Full Statement of the Albanian Ambassadors Council:

At the meeting of EU foreign ministers held in Luxemburg on June 26, an intermediate path was found to respond to the European Commission’s proposal to open negotiations with Albania on joining the Union. The document drafted on this occasion to submit to the European Council, which meets on June 28-29, states: “The Council agrees to respond positively to the progress made by Albania and to determine the path towards the opening of accession negotiations in June 2019”.

This is without doubt good news for all Albanians who see their country a step closer to opening negotiations for EU integration. But no automatic opening of negotiations has been set in June next year. The Council of Albanian Ambassadors calls on our entire political class, and especially the government, to seriously read the document of the foreign ministers of the EU member states and inform them in public opinion. Good news is that next year there will be no more need for a new recommendation from the European Commission. And this is a step forward in this small process, but it has its importance to consider. The final decision remains to be taken by the European Council.

It is true that there were no new conditions to be met by Albania during the 12 months ahead. But there was a re-enactment, with a new force, of the conditions set out in recent years. In our judgment, this makes the issue even sharper because it shows that EU member states have come to the conclusion that Albania has not fulfilled its previous tasks. Clearly, without the fulfillment of these tasks there is no opening of negotiations. The content of these tasks is a matter of internal developments rather than diplomacy. The Council of Albanian Ambassadors calls on our entire political class and in particular the government to give up the empty polemical rhetoric to focus specifically on the required reforms and the fight against corruption and organized crime. It will also lose the next year the chance that the decision to open negotiations would be a very serious blow to our European aspiration. As the President of the Republic rightly recalled, “one year passes very quickly”. There is no time to lose.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Attempts are made to provoke Serbia into conflict (Sputnik)

The sending of special Albanian units to the north of Kosovo on Vidovdan was Pristina’s move aimed at provoking Serbia into a conflict, writes Sputnik. Special Rosu units headed to the north of Kosovo yesterday and this decision was made after Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin was banned from attending the marking of Vidovan (St. Vitus Day) at the Gazimestan monument, raised to the heroes of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. The deployment was also confirmed by the cabinet of Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Bedgjet Pacolli, although no reason for banning Vulin was given, nor was it stated why it was necessary to send special forces armed to the teeth to that part of the southern province of Serbia where the majority population is Serb, write Sputnik. Intelligence and security expert and retired KOS (“counter-intelligence service”) lieutenant Ljuban Karan believes it was a direct provocation.

“This is a direct provocation, since Serbia has been warned not to think about using military forces to protect the Serb people. The president of Serbia is energetic in the fact that there will not be a new exodus, and that Serbian forces will surely engage in the protection of the Serb (national) corps if it is is threatened, but the situation is already being prepared in the West for such an intervention to be interpreted as an aggression of Serbia,” he told Sputnik.

According to Karan, “everything is taking place in the context of political and military pressure on Serbia, and everything is still in the phase of preparing some armed solution, by others, not by Serbia.”

“Armed actions are prepared secretly, and activated when they are least expected. However, in order to activate a military solution to the problem, a trigger is needed, and these current provocations are precisely in the function of provoking that trigger. Of course, the cause can be staged, but it is better for Pristina if Serbia falls for these provocations and makes some moves that can be interpreted as aggressive. That’s why I think everything that has been going these recent times, including this today (Thursday), is a plan for Serbia to be provoked. As we can see, it spread to where it should not have, to sporting events, the European and the world scene. It’s all a direct provocation, and the worst is that Serbia ultimately becomes the guilty party,” explained the retired KOS operative.

Karan also thinks that it takes “really thick skin” to withstand such provocations and not make a move that Pristina can respond to.

“If Serbs made similar moves, it would be interpreted as serious provocations and aggression towards the Albanian (national) corps. While Albanians do that to Serbs, nobody notices,” he noted.

 

Is two too little or just right for Serbia? (EURACTIV)

According to the EU, Serbia could join the Union in 2025.

Earlier this week, Serbia opened two more chapters in its EU accession talks. It also received another clear message that progress on the rule of law and the normalization of relations with Kosovo were crucial for the pace of its advance towards membership. EURACTIV.rs reports.

After unlocking the chapters on fisheries and financial and budgetary provisions on 25 June, Serbia now has 14 negotiating chapters open and two provisionally closed. But questions about the pace of its progress have been raised in Belgrade. Serbia had sent five negotiating positions to Brussels, meaning it was ready to open five chapters, so the general public wondered about the pace of the negotiations, keeping in mind 2025 as the year mentioned in the EU’s new strategy for the Western Balkans as a possible accession year.

 

If the opening of chapters continued at this rate, Serbia would need five more years just to open them all, not to mention close them, which requires approval of all member states. In that case, regardless of the EU’s will, joining the Union in 2025 would be highly unlikely.

“I believe that there could have been more, but two is also good. Serbia’s mantra is that we are focused on the reforms we need to implement, the number of chapters opened is a matter handled by the EU,” said Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic. The European integration minister, Jadranka Joksimovic, said at the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels that by opening new chapters Serbia was preparing to take part in the EU budget and receive money from EU funds when it becomes a member. Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn also added a touch of optimism, saying the EU Council had already considered opening three new chapters with Serbia. European Movement in Serbia (EMinS) Secretary General Suzana Grubješić told EURACTIV.rs that opening two chapters at a time could not satisfy Belgrade, but that it was important that the process was unfolding.

 

At this pace, Serbia will manage to open all chapters by the end of 2023 at the earliest, she said.

“Of course, we are negotiating under new, stricter rules, which may accelerate or slow down the process. In our case, that means that chapters 35 (the normalization of relations with Pristina) and 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) have a suspensive effect, i.e. if it is assessed that there is no progress in either of the chapters, the opening of some chapters is not allowed,” said Grubjesic. She added it was hardly surprising that only two chapters have been opened as the EU is now grappling with several major issues, like migration and reform of the eurozone.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers reminded Serbia about the crucial importance of strengthening the rule of law and normalizing relations with Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province which declared independence 10 years ago and whose independence Belgrade does not recognize, along with five EU member states.

European ministers stated that for Belgrade and Pristina, the normalization of relations, including a legally binding agreement, is vital to their progress on the European road and essentially important for lasting regional stability. The EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina resumed on 24 June after a three-month hiatus. Although an agreement is not in sight, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said it had been “a difficult but encouraging” round of talks between the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci.

 

Serbian citizens not ready for personal sacrifice over Kosovo

Many Serbians see Kosovo’s independence as a realistic option, according to a new survey. A majority are also not ready to make any personal sacrifices to regain control over the former Serbian province, whose independence Belgrade refuses to recognize, and are much more preoccupied with economic issues instead.

The Serbian President said on Wednesday he would present to the Serbian people his proposal for a lasting solution to the Kosovo issue. “There is nothing nice regarding Kosovo that we can win and offer to the people. Only problems and difficult things… I will face the people and present my proposal. I won’t hide at all, and the people will decide on their own future,” Vucic told reporters in Kraljevo, central Serbia, where a joint police and military exercise took place.

He said the idea was to reach a compromise solution that was not detrimental to the citizens and then decide whether to put it to vote in a referendum. According to media reports, Vucic and Thaci will meet again in mid-July. At the same time, there is also speculation about shuttle diplomacy aimed at resolving the Kosovo issue, which would be led by Angelina Eichhorst of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

 

Kosovo-Serbia status remains biggest challenge in Balkans – EU envoy

Normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia is “the most complicated process in the Balkans at the moment”, according to the head of the EU’s office in Pristina. But both sides need steady encouragement from the international community to reach a final solution and progress towards EU membership.

 

 

 

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Belgrade Media Report 19 July 2018

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